Bureau d'Exchange, a participatory experiment in alternative economies - Cynthia Schwertsik
portfolio_page-template-default,single,single-portfolio_page,postid-16606,qode-listing-1.0.1,qode-quick-links-1.0,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode-title-hidden,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0,qode-theme-ver-12.1.1,qode-theme-bridge,cschwertsik,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.5.2,vc_responsive

About This Project

a portal between real + imagined + possible worlds

Bureau d’Exchange is an immersive art installation and performance work, where participants reflect upon the meaning and value of objects and the unique personal stories embedded within them.

Through a transformative ritual of choosing and giving away, participants are invited to bring a personal object with a story to tell, in exchange for an item from the Bureau’s ever-evolving ‘merchandise’ on display.

The Bureau’s performer ‘brand ambassadors’ accept personal objects and storytelling as their operating currency for the exchange of goods. This currency has been given the name Gefühl — a currency of feeling, sensibility, instinct and emotion.

Conceived and presented by artist Cynthia Schwertsik, and developed with performer Emma Beech and curator Andrew Purvis, Bureau d’Exchange is preparing to tour nationally after an award-winning launch at Adelaide Central Gallery during Adelaide Fringe 2021 and a recent Breakout Residency at The Mill.

Bureau d’Exchange is a portal between real and imagined worlds — an experiment in alternative economies and sustainable futures.

As participants enter into the spirit of this high-end game of pretend, a subtle form of alchemy takes place, where commonplace personal objects are elevated to the status of valuable commodities.

Together the performers and participants create the work.

What Critics + Participants Say

Bureau d’Exchange is not only superbly clever and thought-provoking, but earth-shattering. It leaves this reviewer questioning what we value more than money (hopefully, experiences), and drives home the difficulty of divorcing an object from our feelings. Bureau d’Exchange ‘sees us leave feeling richer than [we] did before entering’

★★★★½    Angela Skujins, Fringe Review: The New Money, InDaily, March 2021

As a keen collector of second-hand, I regularly ponder the possible history of objects I amass, and what stories they could tell. Bureau d’Exchange already knew my desire. My donated object, imbued with my own experience, was handed over. With my giving comes receiving — an object of my choice, chosen from an array of previously donated gifts with a new narrative — facts and fictions, speculations about objects and owners, and a desire to know more. It sits now in my home with other precious objects, part artwork, but mostly cherished gift.’

Nicholas Folland, sculptor & installation artist

I booked into visit the Bureau d’Exchange with a friend not quiet knowing what to expect. What transpired delighted me artistically, moved me emotionally and stimulated my thinking around cultural exchange. Being a party to intimate tales from an anonymous other’s life, along with the opportunity to craft and tell my own convoluted tale, was both stimulating and cathartic. Leaving my memory behind and taking home an object gladly surrendered by its previous owner, has given me a sense of ongoing connection to a community and an optimism for alternate ways of relating in the world dominated by consumerism.’

Professor Melinda Rackham, artist, author, curator

We all absolutely loved Bureau d’Exchange! I really like the anonymous element. I keep trying to imagine what the previous owner is like. Hope you get to take it to lots of other places.’

Kasia Tons, contemporary artist

Thanks to Susan Charlton who captured the essence of the work in words, to Adelaide Central School of Art for supporting Bureau d’Exchange, and Sam Roberts for the photos.



Collaboration, Mundane Observations, Participatory Exchange, Public Space